I'm glad you've picked up WitW again. I love this game.
My comments in-line below.
By the way, I highly recommend you use the "Addl Air HQs" scenario, as it gives you a lot more air HQ's and therefore a lot more potential AD's to create. For example, assign most of your RAF recon air groups to No. 106 PR Group RAF, and use it for Strategic Recon missions, so you have enough open slots in Bomber Command for the actual Strategic Bombing missions.
Every year or two I pick WitW back up and fall in love with it again. I'm back on that train once more these days and am relearning the game (some parts come back easier than others), reading through tutorials, watching videos, etc. I'm trying to take it much slower than before and my goal is to play through the whole GC this time around (never made it past winter '44/'45 before, when bogged down in the Low Countries I got frustrated and gave up). I've been playing this game on and off for years but am not nearly as committed and well versed as most people on this forum - it's a fun hobby to get invested in for a few months every so often for me, and I have a grasp on most of the main systems but some basics are still totally mysterious to me. That's something I'm hoping to chip away at this time around. With that in mind, I'm going to use this thread to post questions I can't find a good answer to as I go, hopefully the super knowledgeable people over here can help me out...
To begin with, some air questions:
1. What is a reasonable number of air losses per round for the Allies (I always play as the Allies)? I know they can recover their losses a lot quicker than the Axis and can handle large numbers of losses OK, but to minimize VP loss AND stay within relatively historical boundaries, what should I be aiming for on a week to week basis? I don't want to be tearing through pilots and don't want go "game" the system too much if a strategy would have been totally out of bounds in real life. A few test runs on the early turns of the GC had me losing around 200 planes (on the low end) to as many as 500 (on the high end), mostly through Ground Attacks in N France and Holland targeting airbases, but a fair amount from my U Boat bombing runs around the Danish border. Can I lose 2-300 plans per turn and not totally screw myself? Which brings me to my second question...
I approach the question differently: what's the Axis:Allied kill ratio I want to hit to achieve my objective of attriting the Luftwaffe in advance of D-Day in Northern Europe. My goal is a 2:1 ratio. I achieve this by assigning heavy escorts to a few deep strategic bombing AD's. I also convert P-47C air groups to P-38G/H's in the early turns, because the P-47C's are so short-ranged.
2. It's extremely opaque to me how escorts are assigned to bombing missions. How can I tell which planes can escort bombers, what their range is, whether they fly at night or during the day, whether it even MATTERS if my bombers have escorts...all that is very confusing to me. Are there any basic rules to live by with escorts, and how can I figure out a good strategy for assigning (or not) escorts to my strat bombing missions?
Absolutely assign escorts, or your bombers will get slaughtered, and you won't achieve your goal of destroying the Luftwaffe! Do it manually when you set up the AD. Any FB or FB-F air group can serve as escorts in the various bombing AD's. You manually assign by creating an AD, then clicking on "Groups" in the AD details section, choose both the LB units you want, and the FB or FB-F units that will escort. If the air groups are greyed out, they don't have the range to the target, but you can click on them and change their loadouts to pick their maximum fuel tank loads. Also do the following: Move your escort FB air groups to the farthest forward air base possible and then make that air base the staging base ("S Base"). In England I put my USAAF escort groups in Halesworth, Bungay, Seething, and Rackheath, and I also use a construction unit to build a size 3 air base in Lowestoft. Use one of those air bases as your staging bases for all daytime bombing missions over Germany. In Italy once I have Foggia, I build air bases in Termoli and Lesina (and Vasto if I put enough P-38J's in Italy), and put the escort air groups in those bases, using Lesina as the staging base.
Any air group can fly during day or night, but night is much less effective for bombing, so I fly USAAF in the day and RAF at night. Depending on how the air war goes, I eventually switch the RAF to day-time for accuracy, though I know some players don't do that for historical reasons (even though the RAF DID do some daylight bombing).
The key to destroying German night interceptors is to set up Night Intruder missions. You do this by creating an Air Superiority AD, then clicking on "Day/Night" so it changes to Night Intruder. Make the Area size 5 or 6 and assign two Nightfighter air groups to it. Then click the Advanced Options and change "Fly" to Friendly Air Phase and Req AC to 12 to maximize number of NF's flying. Put one of these over Hamburg, another over Hannover. What this does is to have your NF's shoot down German NF's when they're landing back at their bases, which was the historically most effective counter to German nightfighters.
3. Also relatedly - is there anywhere I can turn to get a good, basic, understanding of the different plane types and their function? I'm reading through tutorials so I can be more hands on with the air war, but there's a dizzying number of planes out their and their roles are not always completely clear to me. I've also looked in the manual but can't find any solid answers to this question in there (but it's a big manual so maybe I'm missing something).
The in-game aircraft information is well-hidden, but you get to it as follows: Click C for Commander's Report, click on the Equipment tab, then click on the Aircraft tab. You can filter by Axir or Allied or Nation. If you want just one type of aircraft, e.g., Level Bombers, click on an LB in the Type column to filter to those only. Click on it again to unfilter. If you click on an aircraft model, you can then compare it to another aircraft model by selecting one in the table on the right half of the screen.
Air combat performance is a function of four things: Maneuverability (Mnvr), Maximum Speed (SpdM), Cliimb (Clmb), and altitude with highest max speed. Unfortunately you can't see the last in-game, you have to use the editor for that. Load Generic Data, click on the Aircraft tab, search for an aircraft model you want to look at, and there's a ">" graph in the lower left showing altitude with highest max speed. For example, a Bf 109G-6 has a 21K' Max Speed Altitude, whereas a P-51D has a 25K' Max Speed Altitude, and a B-17G at 27K'. If you want to take advantage of this, set your bombing missions to 27K', and the Allied aircraft will have an advantage over the Germans.
You may decide that's too much micro-management, but you can change defaults for all AD's in the Air Doctrine screen (press "d"), and then you don't have to change all those settings every time you create a new AD.
4. And finally, this is less important than the air war stuff since I think I mostly understand the basics of ground attacking, but how much do generals really matter? Should I be spending some time during turn 1 reassigning guys? Or can I just leave them as is?
I don't know the answers on this, other than Admin value is important for rear-area higher HQ's like UK Home Forces, AFHQ, and SHAEF. Put those HQ's on large size depots (e.g., SHAEF in Birmingham, UKHFHQ is Sheffield, and AFHQ in Tunis), then transfer weakened support units to them to recover most quickly.
Alright that's all that comes to mind now. Thanks in advance to anyone who feels like tackling my questions!